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Getting back into Amtrak/Pere Marquette questions...


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#1 thully

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 12:09 PM

Hi,

 

I've been away from these forums for a while since I haven't been taking Amtrak for a while - think my last train was a Surfliner back in early 2016. Also, having to be gluten-free basically makes it impossible to enjoy multi-day long distance train rides (to do a sleeper I'd have to pay for food I wouldn't be eating since Amtrak doesn't do GF, and cold food+coach for multiple days doesn't sound good at all, nor does risking my stomach when on a train for 3 days). 

 

Anyway, I've since moved back to Michigan, and am starting to plan my next trip. I'm looking at going from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids to meet someone for a minor-league hockey game the Friday before Memorial Day, and then heading to Chicago for Tigers/White Sox. I'm going Greyhound Ann Arbor-Grand Rapids as Amtrak doesn't offer anything except horrible 4-7 hr connections. After that, I'm thinking of taking the Pere Marquette to Chicago, since I've never had a chance to ride that before (I'd take the Wolverine back to ARB).

 

Given that, I had a few questions about that route. For one, is there any interesting scenery on this route? Lake views? I'd have to get up quite early to catch the train (it leaves at 6am from GRR), and I'm kind of wondering if it's worth my while or if I should just take a later bus or Thruway connection to CHI. Also, are there any issues with major delays? I'd be going to a 1pm game in Chicago the day I took the train, so it would seem like the Pere Marquette's arrival would leave me plenty of time. Also, does anybody have hotel suggestions near the station in Grand Rapids or even Holland? With that early of a train, proximity to the station would be important.

 

Looking forward to being back on the train - hope to do something more substantial later this summer (thinking of doing VIA Rail Windsor-Toronto-Montreal (spending some time in at least the latter two), heading down to Vermont (meeting someone) via the Adirondack+Port Kent ferry, Vermonter to NYP, stay in NY a while and then back via the LSL+that Toledo Thruway bus - would have a few interesting stops along the way, yet wouldn't spend too long on any one train.

 

Let me know if you have any thoughts/suggestions...


Trains traveled: Wolverine, Pacific Surfliner, Northeast Regional, Adirondack, Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, City of New Orleans, Cardinal, San Joaquin, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor

#2 Pere Flyer

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 01:42 PM

GR native here. I'm taking the PM Saturday morning as well, to visit family. I've ridden the PM frequently, and I've done the Sunday matinee baseball trip with my dad before. The train was on time, and we had enough time to meet a friend for brunch before taking the Red Line to Sox-35th. Unless the game goes into extras (and if you've been following the Tigers lately, you'll concur that it could happen), you should have some time to take the Red Line downtown and get some deep dish before heading to Union Station and catching the 6:30 p.m. back to GRR. We had a wonderful time when we did it last June.

On the PM, there's a stretch south of St Joseph that looks out on the lake and has gorgeous sunsets. For that reason, I like the CHI-GRR 370 more than the GRR-CHI 371. But southbound, the view is still great. It'll be light by the time you reach Holland. On the other hand, I enjoy the SB ride for the scenic railroad towns. Grandville has curated its downtown business district around the rail line, which is pleasant to observe from the train. I've always thought that an Amtrak station there would be just charming, yet it would be too close to GR to be useful. St Joseph has a well-maintained park across the tracks from the station with some tasteful sculptures and public facilities. I think the station might have a restaurant. Unless you're a railfan, the view is unremarkable as you enter the Chicago area save for some industrial outfits and neighborhoods of varying quality. I'd say the morning train is worth it.

Low price hotels near the GR station are scarce simply due to it being downtown. There's a Holiday Inn at 310 Pearl Street NW near the public museum, Homewood Suites by Hilton at 161 Ottawa Avenue NW, and a Hampton Inn & Suites at 433 Dudley Place NE (off Michigan St) that all seem reasonable for the area ($150-$180). Not sure about the Holland station, but there's a chance that hotels there would be cheaper.

Hopefully Lansing will come around soon to fund GR-Lansing-Ann Arbor-Detroit service so you can do future trips like this exclusively by rail. Never made sense to me why that corridor lacked service.

Enjoy your trip! And by the way: Go Griffins!

Edited by Pere Flyer, 18 May 2017 - 01:46 PM.

Amtrak

Pere Marquette: 370 (CHI, GRR); 371 (GRR, HOM, CHI) | Heartland Flyer: 821 (OKC, NOR, FTW); 822 (FTW, NOR, OKC) | Texas Eagle: 22 (FTW, CHI)

 

U.S. Commuter Rail

South Shore Line: Gary-Chicago | Trinity Railway Express: T&P-Victory Station | DART: Green Line | MTANJT | Washington Metro MBTA

| CTA: Red Line, Blue Line | Denver RTD: Blue Line

 

Europe Commuter Rail

Paris MétropolitainBarcelona Metro (TMB & FGC)

 

Bus

Greyhound Lines | Jefferson LinesThe RapidCARTCapital MetroTMBMiami-Dade MetrobusCTADenver RTD


#3 niemi24s

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 02:53 PM

See for yourself by previewing the scenery along the route using the satellite imagery of Google Earth.

 

Preview the motels (their reviews, photos, amenities and locations) using Trip Advisor.  The 7 hotels in blue, below, have a total of 3,800 reviews between them - probably about 1,000 times the number you'll get here:

 

Attached File  Grand Rapids Hotels.jpg   47.98KB   19 downloads

 

The station is in blue in the bottom left sector.


Edited by niemi24s, 18 May 2017 - 02:54 PM.


#4 tim49424

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 04:23 PM

I too, am a relatively frequent PM rider. The best scenery IMO is in and south of St. Joe.

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Over 40,000 miles traveled on Amtrak since December, 2007.  Next trip: June 7-14 HOM-PDX-SEA-HOM

 

Amtrak trains traveled on as of March, 2017:  Pere Marquette, Empire Builder, Hiawatha, Wolverine, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Pacific Surfliner, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, Cardinal, Northeast Regional, Downeaster, Lake Shore Limited and Heartland Flyer.


#5 thully

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 07:19 PM

Looks neat - have always wanted to ride this route, but never had a reason to. Anyway, I noticed when checking fare/availability that apparently there is upper and lower level seating. Does this run Superliner cars, or some other type of bilevel cars? Also, how does business class compare to coach? I'm definitely a fan of bilevel equipment, and that gives me more reason to opt for the Pere Marquette.


Trains traveled: Wolverine, Pacific Surfliner, Northeast Regional, Adirondack, Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, City of New Orleans, Cardinal, San Joaquin, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor

#6 tim49424

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 07:30 PM

Looks neat - have always wanted to ride this route, but never had a reason to. Anyway, I noticed when checking fare/availability that apparently there is upper and lower level seating. Does this run Superliner cars, or some other type of bilevel cars? Also, how does business class compare to coach? I'm definitely a fan of bilevel equipment, and that gives me more reason to opt for the Pere Marquette.


Bi-level during the winter, single level in the other months.

Business class isn't really worth the upgrade in my opinion. I used to do b/c to get access to the metropolitan lounge in Chicago but discovered that it's cheaper to book coach then purchase a day pass to the Legacy lounge.

Over 40,000 miles traveled on Amtrak since December, 2007.  Next trip: June 7-14 HOM-PDX-SEA-HOM

 

Amtrak trains traveled on as of March, 2017:  Pere Marquette, Empire Builder, Hiawatha, Wolverine, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Pacific Surfliner, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, Cardinal, Northeast Regional, Downeaster, Lake Shore Limited and Heartland Flyer.


#7 Pere Flyer

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 07:54 PM

I took the PM on 5/14, and the cars were bi-level. I didn't know it changed to single level for part of the year.

For the PM, business class is pretty much glorified coach. No complimentary drinks, no special seats, same Wi-Fi as everybody else. The primary benefits are early boarding and access to the Met Lounge in Chicago.

Edited by Pere Flyer, 18 May 2017 - 08:03 PM.

Amtrak

Pere Marquette: 370 (CHI, GRR); 371 (GRR, HOM, CHI) | Heartland Flyer: 821 (OKC, NOR, FTW); 822 (FTW, NOR, OKC) | Texas Eagle: 22 (FTW, CHI)

 

U.S. Commuter Rail

South Shore Line: Gary-Chicago | Trinity Railway Express: T&P-Victory Station | DART: Green Line | MTANJT | Washington Metro MBTA

| CTA: Red Line, Blue Line | Denver RTD: Blue Line

 

Europe Commuter Rail

Paris MétropolitainBarcelona Metro (TMB & FGC)

 

Bus

Greyhound Lines | Jefferson LinesThe RapidCARTCapital MetroTMBMiami-Dade MetrobusCTADenver RTD


#8 tim49424

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 08:06 PM

I took the PM on 5/14, and the cars were bi-level. I didn't know it changed to single level for part of the year.


In March, the two times I rode 3/20 & 3/24) it was single level. I believe the intention is to be single level during non-winter months depending on availability. I'll be riding the PM next month (7th & 14th) and fully expect single level.

Interestingly enough, on those March trips, I was contacted by Amtrak informing me of the single level trains being I had a lower level ticket. Being that I have a lower level reservation (along with my sister and our mother), I'm expecting further contact just before I leave Holland and before I return.

Over 40,000 miles traveled on Amtrak since December, 2007.  Next trip: June 7-14 HOM-PDX-SEA-HOM

 

Amtrak trains traveled on as of March, 2017:  Pere Marquette, Empire Builder, Hiawatha, Wolverine, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Pacific Surfliner, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, Cardinal, Northeast Regional, Downeaster, Lake Shore Limited and Heartland Flyer.


#9 thully

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 08:12 PM

OK - well that's a bit of a bummer, as I really like the Superliner cars (and the Surfliner/Amtrak California ones, though I prefer Superliner). At least I'm forewarned - was always bummed to be taking a Surfliner in San Diego only to see Horizon cars when I got to the station (which happens for one or two trains each day).

 

With that said, is the business class different on the single levels? If it's just early boarding/lounge access, I'll pass - but if it's 2x1 seating like I've had on the Wolverine, that would be worth it if available...


Trains traveled: Wolverine, Pacific Surfliner, Northeast Regional, Adirondack, Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, City of New Orleans, Cardinal, San Joaquin, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor

#10 tim49424

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 08:32 PM

B/C can really be a grab bag.  Sometimes on bi-level it's 2 x 1, sometimes not.  I've experienced both.  Also, sometimes leather seats, sometimes the traditional Amtrak cloth seats.  I guess it depends on which equipment is available for the PM. When on the upper level of a bi-level, the section is located directly above the cafe.  The perks are few, free beverage and newspaper with access to the ML and of course early board.  As I said earlier, it's less expensive to simply ride coach and purchase a day pass to the legacy lounge.


Edited by tim49424, 18 May 2017 - 08:33 PM.

Over 40,000 miles traveled on Amtrak since December, 2007.  Next trip: June 7-14 HOM-PDX-SEA-HOM

 

Amtrak trains traveled on as of March, 2017:  Pere Marquette, Empire Builder, Hiawatha, Wolverine, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Pacific Surfliner, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, Cardinal, Northeast Regional, Downeaster, Lake Shore Limited and Heartland Flyer.


#11 Triley

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 04:17 AM

I took the PM on 5/14, and the cars were bi-level. I didn't know it changed to single level for part of the year.

For the PM, business class is pretty much glorified coach. No complimentary drinks, no special seats, same Wi-Fi as everybody else. The primary benefits are early boarding and access to the Met Lounge in Chicago.


As Tim mentioned, you do get free complimentary drinks. You just have to head yourself to the cafe counter to get them.

My posts are my own opinions and do not represent the views of my employer in any way, shape, or form. ~ Now back to your regularly scheduled program.


#12 tim49424

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 04:30 AM

 

I took the PM on 5/14, and the cars were bi-level. I didn't know it changed to single level for part of the year.

For the PM, business class is pretty much glorified coach. No complimentary drinks, no special seats, same Wi-Fi as everybody else. The primary benefits are early boarding and access to the Met Lounge in Chicago.


As Tim mentioned, you do get free complimentary drinks. You just have to head yourself to the cafe counter to get them.

 

 

That too, is kind of a grab bag on the PM.  Some LSA's (not many) will take drink orders and deliver them to your seat.  In most cases, however, it's up to the passenger.


Over 40,000 miles traveled on Amtrak since December, 2007.  Next trip: June 7-14 HOM-PDX-SEA-HOM

 

Amtrak trains traveled on as of March, 2017:  Pere Marquette, Empire Builder, Hiawatha, Wolverine, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Pacific Surfliner, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, Cardinal, Northeast Regional, Downeaster, Lake Shore Limited and Heartland Flyer.


#13 wwchi

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:50 AM

Agree Business Class is worth it on the single level trains but not so much on the bi level (except for early boarding in Chicago, but the reverse trip, not so much)...Typically we move to single level around this time of year but I've recently heard both that the equipment WILL change and then also that this year it will NOT.  So we'll have to see how it plays out.






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